Friday, 12 July 2013

Newsletter No.1

By way of being a historical document in itself is the first newsletter put out by GIHS in 1998

A dodgy server at Goldsmiths means that our old web site may not be accessible. So - read the first item on it here, instead - but less some pictures and and some meeting announcments. See what the world was like only 14 years ago


Volume 1. Issue 1. April 1998


12th May Tuesday 1998 East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10. 7.30 Speaker: Andrew Turner on ‘Redpath Brown. 200 Constructive Years’

7th July Tuesday 1998 East Greenwich Community Centre, Christchurch Way, SE10. 7.30 Speaker: Rod le Gear on ‘Underground Greenwich.

Redpath Brown's Greenwich works was on the site to the south of Riverway which is set to become the Millennium 'Eco-Village'. It was later nationalised as British Steel - and the factory closed in the 1970s. Some buildings from the works are said to be still in use by Greenwich Yacht Club and the Society hopes to arrange a visit to the site before it is taken over and demolished. Readers of the News Shopper will have seen their story of 25th March 'Draughtsman wants your help in tracing history of Redpath'. This draws attention to a history of the company which was written a couple of years ago by Mr. Arthur Turner of Edinburgh. He is now working with John Fry who was a draughtsman at the Greenwich works and they are hoping to get in touch with past colleagues. Mr. Fry has a blueprint of the whole works layout - which hopefully we can reproduce when a clear version is available.

Our speaker on 12th May will be Arthur Turner's son, Andrew. Andrew has worked closely with members of the group in Greenwich, is a member of GLIAS and lives in the London area.
If you want to know more about Redpath Brown - come and hear Andrew on the 12th

Greenwich Industrial History Society - Aims and Objectives
The following Aims and Objectives for the Society were agreed at its second meeting:

1.            To research the Industrial History of the Greenwich Area
2.            To aid the publication of this research where appropriate
3.            To hold a watching brief on industrial sites in the relevant area and to comment on any issues which might arise in the course of redevelopment, planning applications, etc.


Greenwich historians should be more aware than most of the need to produce 'histories for the Millennium'. The Open University is undertaking 'a concerted effort to mark the historic moment'. They have issued an invitation to - everyone - to produce a history of their community. A leaflet about how to participate is available from; Dan Weinbrein, OSFACH, Faculty of Social Sciences, Open University, MK7 6AA (3 copies free). Anyone interested is encouraged to telephone 0131 445 2865 or try They suggest a number of options

1953 – The New Elizabethan Era
The 1930s
1851 The Year of the great Exhibition
A special event in your community
Some features of the changing landscape
Dan Weinbrein has, of course, made a very considerable contribution to Greenwich’s Industrial History with his study on Arsenal workers in peacetime


At the first meeting of the Society it was unanimously agreed to take in North Woolwich as part of the area which the Society's area of interest - as it was part of Woolwich until the setting up of the London Boroughs in 1963. For that reason a walk round North Woolwich was organised with Howard Bloch as our guide. Howard has expert knowledge of the area and a number of publications on the subject to his credit.
He took us from the old Station Museum to the riverside, past the site of Henley's cable works and
The new London Teleport - demonstrating only too vividly the role of telecommunications as a continuing industry in the area. On returning we were unexpectedly allowed into the Museum for a welcome break and look round. We continued through the Royal Victoria Gardens, admiring the team hammer on the way. We walked along the riverside - noting the sites of various ferries to Woolwich proper (or South Woolwich as they call it over there!) and then set off for a quick glimpse of the Royal Albert Dock and Gal1ions Hotel.

If the Society considers that it covers North Woolwich - then it must also take in the Railway Museum, now in the old station building. The Museum buildings are owned by a Trust while the staff is employed by the London Borough of Newham and there was some input from the Great Eastern Railway Society. In recent years there have been drastic cuts in hours and staff - despite the Museum's popularity and booming attendance figures. It is understood that it will be open at weekends through the summer.

We would  like to say a very  bit thank you to Charlie Harris at the North Woolwich Old Station Museum who gave us time for a brief unofficial visit to the Museum - something we had not expected.

Howard Bloch’s most recent publication is 'First Hand Accounts and Reports’ of this dramatic and devastating event. The explosion affected a huge area and was felt throughout Greenwich, as elsewhere. The  No.2. Gasholder at East Greenwich was ruptured through the shock waves and the gas exploded in the air. The book is £3.50 plus £1 postage from All Points East, 69 Frinton, E6

About thirty people attended the first meeting of the Society. We would like to thank GLIAS for help and support - in particular Executive Committee member, Bob Carr who spoke briefly about Greenwich's industrial history in a national context. It was agreed to set up a working party consisting of Barbara Ludlow, Mary Mills and Jack Vaughan. Steve Daly volunteered to be Treasurer - and everyone present made a donation towards costs. It was agreed to cover everything relevant to the industrial history of Greenwich in its widest context - in particular at those areas most under development pressure, Deptford Creek, Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich Arsenal. We agreed to apply to join both Docklands Forum and the Greenwich Waterfront Community Forum and to build links with as many relevant local bodies as we could - but to stay as closely under the wing of GLIAS as possible. Thank you to Greenwich Labour Party for the free use of their hall.

Jack Vaughan gave an interesting talk on Woolwich Dockyard and the many famous ships built there. Launches from the Woolwich slips were took place before vast crowds of onlookers as the ship went down into the river with acres of flags flying from the decks. Relics of many of these ships can now be found in museums and collections around the world. Jack pointed to the origins of the yard as far back as the reign of Henry VII and went on to talk about the remains which could now be found on site. The conservation of the steam factory was particularly noted as a triumph for the Woolwich Antiquarian Society. Thank you to Jack's daughter for helping with the slides.  There was also some discussion on the Diamond Terrace sand mines and Nick Catford offered, on behalf of the Kent Underground Research Team to undertake a new survey. People talked about the problems-at the Wood Wharf boat repair yard and hoped to be able to arrange a visit there - it was the site of a Greenwich Ferry and considerable remains are said to exist on site.
A long list of interesting sites and subjects was drawn up - the Matchless Motor Cycle Factory, the Uplifting Corsets, barge builders, the collier trade, Siemens, and much much more.

Greenwich University has a commission to prepare for CD-Rom the records of all the local Labour Parties together with some interpretative material. This work is being undertaken by Fred Lindop from the Humanities Department.

Report on the current condition of a small sand mine situated in the rear garden of Meridian West, Diamond Terrace, Greenwich, SEIO (TQ  1386769) Date of visit: 30th March 1998 Present: Nick Catford KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica) and Malcolm Tadd (KURG, GLIAS, Subterranea Britannica)
Following the rediscovery of sand workings in Diamond Terrace by Per Schreiber in the 1980s the mine was surveyed by Rod Le Gear and Harry Pearman on 18th August 1986 and this survey published in Volume 15 of the records of the Chelsea Speleological Society (1987)
In Caves and Tunnels in South East England, Part 7 (Chelsea Speleological Society Records Vol. 15) it was reported:  “ Per Schreiber was sufficiently inspired to start a house to house survey around the Hyde Vale area and he ran the  tunnels to ground, wide open, in someone’s back garden. The resultant survey is shown here”.
Entrance is down a long flight of steps. There are relics of electric cables and signs of use as an air raid shelter. It is mostly of walking height with one short hands and knees section. A few dates and carvings on the walls. The massive roof fall which terminates three tunnels offers the only chance of a dug extension. It occurred when a garden hose was left running on the lawn above.
The drawing which accompanied the above report is reproduced below - with kind permission of Harry Pearman.
When visited in March 1998 there was no obvious deterioration in the condition of the tunnels in the intervening years and they are still as shown in the 1986 survey. Access is down a flight of Yorkshire flag stone steps in the rear garden of Meridian West (built 1972). The present owner of the property has constructed a new inclined entrance, which is kept gated. At the bottom of the steps is a left turn shortly followed by a total roof collapse which occurred in the 1960s after a hose was left running in the garden above. Turning left at the bottom of the stairs there is a crossroads after eight metres. At this point the present owner, E. Morton Wright, has supported the roof with sandbags and timber  stemples following the appearance of a large cavity. Turning left (north) at the crossroads the passage ends in a rounded chamber after five metres. Straight on leads to another small rounded chamber (lying under the house) after twelve metres. In this passage close to the crossroads are numerous inscriptions, which appear to date from the Second World War when the tunnels were used as air- raid shelters. There are carved portraits of Shirley Temple and Mussolini and an intricately carved 17th century date which is undoubtedly much more recent. South from the crossroads the passage bends round to the west reaching a T-junction after 11 metres. North leads to the other side of the roof fall at the bottom of the steps and south reaches a natural end after la metres. Close to the junction is more graffiti from World War Two shelterers with dates from the 1940s. Having turned south at the T junction almost immediately there is a crawl way the west with a step up of three metres. This is a low meandering passage which opens first onto a round chamber with several trail headings and after ten metres reached another T junction where it is possible to stand upright again. Turning right (NE) once again leads to the same total roof collapse after six metres.  Turning left (SE) at the T junction there is a right hand bend to the north west after six metres  (collapse or infill). Close to this second T junction is more graffiti in soot on the roof which is difficult to decipher and on the floor there is the skeleton of a fox cub indicating there must be another way into the tunnels other than the gated entrance - probably through the roof collapse. There is a lot of sand spread over the floor at this point; it is not clear where this had come from as pick marks are still clearly visible in the roof and on the walls. Apart from the entrance passage and two sections close to the crossroads, which are brick lined, the tunnels are unlined throughout with
Long pick marks clearly visible throughout. It is possible to stand upright along most of the galleries. Although the sand appears very soft, there is little evidence of falls other than those already mentioned. The tunnels seem remarkable stable and safe.
There is little evidence to date the workings although Mr. Morton Wright feels that the brickwork dates from the 17th century. The purpose of the mine is also unclear. Silver sand is often used in glass making but the sand has been tested by Pilkingtons who say it would not be suitable. Another major use of sand is as an abrasive for cleaning and there is definite evidence this was one use for Greenwich sand. One elderly resident remembers being told as a child that a man used to come round with a wheelbarrow to collect sand which was sold to local pubs for that purpose. It has also been suggested that it may have been used as hourglass sands.
The future of the existing tunnels seems secure. Although there are plans for a development on an adjacent site is it my opinion that the existing tunnels lie wholly below the garden of Meridian West but there may well be other tunnels yet to be discovered. Some year ago a subsidence appeared in another part of the garden which was quickly filled in and it has been suggested that the major roof fall could be a four-way junction with another passage leading in the direction of the planned development
Mr. Morton Wright is keen to preserve the tunnels. He has installed lighting as far as the crossroads and has used the tunnels on several occasions for cocktail parties.
Nick Catford

It is understood that considerable research has been done on the origins of the these tunnels and it is hoped to have more information in the future Julian Watson (Greenwich Local History Library) has said: " It would appear that the existing tunnels are the last visible remains of an extensive network of tunnels examined by members of the Greenwich Antiquarian Society in 1905.  John Stone, who wrote 'Greenwich: its underground passages, caverns, etc.  [Trans. Greenwich Antiq. Vol. 1, 1914, pp. 262-277] states that the tunnels were in or near Mr. Montmorency's garden ground, 23 West Grove Lane, and says 'I do not know the extent of these excavations but one can wander about in what seems a perfect maze of tunnels for a considerable distance '. John Stone & Rod Le Gear (author of the 1986 report) are certain that the tunnels were dug in order to excavate sand, a material in great demand for many purposes including floor sanding mould making and glass making. The mines are a significant part of Greenwich's industrial heritage. 

Topsail - Journal of the Society for Sailing Barge Research had just published an article by John Glenn, who was frequently aboard the ketch barge, Ethel Edith, when she was laid up at Norton's in 1934.... The Gaselee Wharf Guide of 1954 going upstream gives ..
Esso Angerstein spirit and kerosene,
Peartree Wharf owners  G.J.Palmer & Sons, Barge and Tug Repairs,
Norton's. Chart ton (foreshore) Barge repairers,
Dorman Long (Bridge Dept.], Dorman Jetty, Dorman Long & Co. Led. 'Phone GRE 0921, bridge constructional engineers,
Greenwich Yacht Club,
Redpath Brown's Steel structural engineers (no mention of a jetty). Phone GRE 2671;
Pilot's Causeway.
The 1936 'Thames Navigator’s Pocket: Companion', under 'Bugsy’s Reach or the south shore' shows proceeding upstream from the Angerstein branch railway
Christie's Wharf and jetty
British Petroleum Wharf,
Angerstein’s Wharf (Southern Railway)
Anglo-American Oil Wharf  
Pear Tree Wharf.
Norton's Wharf,
Dorman Long's Store, Wharf

When the New Millennium Experience site is finished only a few original buildings will remain. These are The Pilot pub and the short row of Georgian cottages, called Ceylon Place, The pub is rightly popular and has recently been extended but, alongside it, the small, dilapidated cottages are rarely given a second look. They are currently in use as short life housing and their downmarket looks barely reveal their origins as part of what was once an exciting new development at the end of what is now Riverway.
The cottages date from about 1801, They were built in the lane behind a 'big' house and a huge corn mill which stood on the on the riverfront, In the eighteenth century the site was owned by George Russell, a London soap manufacturer whose works were near Blackfriars Bridge but who lived at Longlands House near Sidcup. In 1801 he was approached by a William Johnson, from Bromley, Kent, who had patented a new design of tide mill. A tide mill is a watermill worked by the power of the tides - a good example can be seen today at Three Mills, behind the Tesco store off the northern Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Russell agreed to the project and construction went ahead on the mill - the cottages and the house were included as the start of 'New East Greenwich'.  At the same time Russell got a licence from the City of London to build a causeway down into the river at what was then called 'Bugsby's Hole'. This causeway is still in use today. The site - and perhaps George Russell had some unexplained connections with national politics, In 1801 some of the site was leased to a group of out of office politicians - William Pitt, the recently resigned Prime Minister, his elder brother, the Earl of Chatham, and their associates the Hon.Edward Crags and the Hon. John Eliot. Their role in the development is not clear but it might explain the name of the pub. 'The Pilot' is almost certainly named after William Pitt who was described in a contemporary song as 'The Pilot who weathered the storm', Ceylon, after which the cottages were named, had recently come under the protection of the British Crown,
Two hundred years ago the site must have looked marvellous and romantic. The big mill moving slowly, the big house with gardens going down to the river. Behind it were the cottages and pub overlooking some six acres of millponds with meadows beyond. Nearby was a thatched barn and all around were grazing cows and sheep, Around 1900, when the cottages were a century old, someone built extensions on the backs of them - making them marginally bigger but eating in to what had been pretty gardens, The 'big house', East Lodge, was demolished then and its' site is now used by the Yacht Club. What happened to the summerhouse lookout over the river? Are any of the trees those planted by the Davies sisters who lived there in the nineteenth century? The little cottages have gone on for almost two hundred years serving as housing for local workers - fishermen, mill workers, and barge builders. All around things have changed. The great mill became a chemical works and was   replaced by a power station. On the fields behind a steel works was built and - soon more cottages, a mission room and soon more cottages and the pub. The only thing not to have changed seems to be the supply of thirsty workers who drink in The Pilot
These cottages were part of an industrial site and they should not be treated as quaint and countrified. Let us hope that English Partnerships and the New Millennium Experience treat them kindly and take due regard to their age and context
Mary Mills

Reproduced from Docklands Forum Mailing Pack

There are many publications which throw some light on Greenwich's industrial past One of these is The London Railway Record - a 'small' journal still only 3 years old, Since then it has published the following articles about Greenwich:

Editorial on North Woolwich Old Station Museum, April 1996, p. 1
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part I, April 1996, pp 23-32
The Greenwich Park Branch by J.E.Connor, part 2, July 1996, pp 14- IS  
DLR Lewisham Extension, January 1997, p.36
Tracing the Greenwich Park Branch by Ian Baker, April [997 pp9-12
Work at Greenwich (DLR) October 1997, p. 35 
London Railway Record obtainable from Connor & Butler, 69 Guildford Road, Colchester. Essex. O 1 2RZ,             

The winter edition of  ' Wildlife London' asks what’s so special about London. And looks at derelict industrial sites and nature. It says the old MOD Kidbrooke Depot supports great crested newts, slow worms and wall hrds and that there is a flora of dazzling spectra at Woolwich Arsenal which will ‘disappear under bricks, mortar, asphalt and an insult of tidy rye grass lawns'. They say Greenwich Reach is a particular problem because a  'hundred species of wildflowers' and 'exotica' support invertebrates which feed two breeding pairs of back redstarts 'an extremely rate bird. They draw attention to the planned casino, cinema and hotel. . Wildlife London .London Wildlife Trust, Harling House, 47-51 Great Suffolk Street. SEI.

ASPECTS OF THE  ARSENAL: The Royal Arsenal Woolwich.
This new book has been published by Greenwich Borough Museum. Edited jointly by Beverley Burford and Julian Watson, it includes chapters on the Arsenal by several well-known authors:
The Buildings of the Royal Arsenal - by Darrell Spurgeon
Tower Place - by Winifred Cutler
Paul Sandby RA 1731-1809. Father of English Watercolour by David Brighton
She Can Sew a Flannel Cartridge in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by Barbara Ludlow
The Royal Artillery in Woolwich by Brigadier K.A. Timbers
A Brief History of the Transport System in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich by J.Fisher
From Domestic to Danger Building: Women Workers in the Royal Arsenal by Bernadette Gillow
The Arsenal and its Co-op Connection by Ron Roffey
The Royal Arsenal workers and Independent Labour Representation. A Beacon in the Dark. by Paul Tyler
Industrial Relations in the Royal Arsenal by William Pearce

Copies are available from Greenwich libraries and museum. [Prices on application]

In February 36 Woolwich Antiquarians visited the Arsenal site under the leadership of Jack Vaughan - and ably reported in their newsletter by Tony Fawcett.  They were accompanied by John Usmar, Deputy Chairman of the Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Historical Society... Members saw the 'dilapidated' buildings of the original Royal Laboratory - perhaps the oldest industrial buildings in London. Then to New Laboratory Square where the new museum of Artillery is to be sited. They passed the New Cartridge Factory, the riverside Guardhouses and the site of the now demolished Shipping Sheds. John Usmar took the group into the  Grand Storehouses where they saw the chimney less cast iron stove. In the Chemical Department they were shown a veranda over which Frederick Abel, the chemist, is said to have lowered samples in a basket. They continued to see many of the famous buildings the Central Office, the remains of the Shell Foundry, the New Carriage tore which includes a clock - wound up weekly by Jack! The group also saw the 'magnificently restored' Brass Foundry and then the buildings around Dial Square with the Main Guardhouse and Verbruggen's House.


From Angela Simco: I have been commissioned by English Heritage to prepare the Step One report for the Clay Industries as part of the Monuments Protection Programme survey of industrial monuments. I would like to know of anyone who has under- take a surveyor recording of clay pits or ceramic production sites. 13 Green Lane, Clapham, Bedford, MK41 6EP

From Prof Tony Arnold: I am currently carrying out research into the history of iron shipbuilding on the Thames. I would very much appreciate the names of any sources I could follow up. Univ. Essex, Winvenhoe Park, Colchester, C04 35Q

From Derek Bayliss: We have set up a copperas study group and are very interested' in the works around Deptford Creek. It is remarkable how the old Thames side works and the tiny Pennine ones for that matter, kept going in the late 18th and early 19th centuries beside the large Tyneside and Scottish works - something to do with local raw materials and markets, I imagine. We haven't quite worked out the story of copperas as a source of sulphuric acid. Why go to all the bother of copperas beds when other firms were using the Ward process or the lead chamber process? Sheffield.

From Mrs. Wright: My maternal grandfather worked for one local gas company as an engineer all his life and some inventions of his were put into uses (no payment in those days!). We do have a photo of him when he was a foreman, in his bowler hat, with two other workers. He died from cancer in 1951. SE3
From Bill Brown: I used to live in Meridian House, a block of flats in Blackwall Lane and went to school at the Dreadnought and buy coke from the gasworks at 6d. for 28 Ibs then sell it to other tenants in the flats for 6~d. a bag. I would wheel the pram loaded with bags of coke along Tunnel Avenue and pick up lumps of Coalite that had fallen off the lorry because of the rough cobbled road - but it was also rough for the pram as well and I got through a number of them. SE I 0

FORTHCOMING PUBLICATIONS  ..... soon to be available is the long awaited 'Lewisham Silk Mills. The History of an Ancient Site. The Story of Armour, Small Arms, Silk and Gold and Silver Wire Drawing' by Sylvia Macartney and John West. This is to be published by Lewisham Local History Society in association with the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. The sales price is not yet known but it will be under £12. Copies will be available from Lewisham Local History Society bookstall (info. from Tom Sheppard 0181 8520219) or through Greenwich and Lewisham Local History Departments. Please note, however, that GLIAS members will each get a copy free. [GLIAS membership details from Sue Hayton, 31 The High Street, Farnborough Village, Orpington, Kent, BR6 7BQ].

A Ghost in the Works - George Livesey was the charismatic (but strike breaking) Chair of the South Metropolitan Gas Works and the man responsible for the East Greenwich Gas Works – the 'Dome' site. Mary Mills was recently amazed to see herself quoted in the Guardian newspaper   about his ghost which is supposed to haunt the works! Livesey was a deeply religious man with strong beliefs about society - he was also a national figure in the temperance movement. He would have loved the Dome on 'his' works site.  Neither of these aspects seem to be of interest to the ghost-hunters.  The story has been taken up by a correspondent to West Country editions of the Daily Mail - and looks likely to run and run! Watch this space!

WEIGHBRIDGES.  There are a number of weighbridges in the Borough, several of which are under threat from development. Woolwich Antiquarian Society are particularly concerned about three in the Woolwich area - on the Arsenal site, the old Woolwich Power Station and White Hart Road Depot. There are probably several more. Anyone with expertise on weighbridges or who has knowledge of other sites are asked to get in touch.

RUBBISH.  It seems likely that Greenwich Council will review some of its maintenance sites and depots - and these should be recorded before they are passed into other hands. In Woolwich the White Hart Road depot housed a very early municipal power station which generated electricity from rubbish and there were a number of other interesting features. Tunnel  Avenue Depot also seems likely to be under- threat from the Dome and the old jetty from which Greenwich rubbish was barged away until the 1960s still stands derelict - who owns it now?  Visits to both these sites can be arranged if there is sufficient interest.

WOOD WHARF.  The new owners of Wood Wharf, on Thames Street in Greenwich, are expected to put in a planning application shortly. Wood Wharf was the site of Pope and Bond's boat repair business which floundered when Westminster stopped    barging rubbish down river. The site was once   that of a mechanised ferry to the Isle of Dogs and it is said that considerable remains of this probably unique - ferry remain on site. Despite the desperate need for boat repair facilities on the Thames it will probably before housing. The two reports which made recommendations on the feasibility of a working heritage site here are now gathering dust. A small group -led by Reg Barter - have tried hard to keep what remains together in the hope that something can be salvaged.        


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